Thursday, September 12, 2013

Private Parts

As you might have heard, this week, Apple introduced the new iPhone lines. These included the iPhone 5S.

The 5S includes a marvelous piece of gadgetry that can secure your phone with the use of a fingerprint. This is a step wayyyyy up from the current four digit password, which most people don’t even utilize (probably because it’s a major hassle.)


In a day and age of NSA surveillance, is this something we really want? Worse, in a day and age of NSA surveillance, we have to make a decision with regards to any security measures we take with regards to anything, full stop.

It’s not an inconceivable conceit to believe that the NSA could hijack your phone, scan at least one fingerprint, and determine if, in fact, you’re a terrorist (or soon, no doubt, a criminal.) Think about it: monitor your touch screen, scan your fingerprint (or just sift it out of the database of information stored there through the backdoor) and take your picture secretly using your phone’s camera.

Contrast this dynamic with the desire to protect your personal data from people who would absolutely use your identity and information to rip you off: the common (and not-so-common) criminal. Clearly, fingerprint identification makes that job much harder, at least until technology catches up. Yes, there are kludges now to get around it, but those leave some trace of activity.

Add to this the plus that you will be able to prune the number of passwords you need to remember, especially as websites instruct you to use more and more complex ones, which force you to store them somewhere, which means someone else can find them and…

You’re back to square one.

The choice then comes down to, taking a slight, possibly insignificant chance that the NSA will compile your fingerprint or other information and begin to track you versus the rather large certainty that people with criminal intent are looking for easy prey. Both are very real possibilities, just one is far more omnipresent than the other.

But then this opens a larger issue: interacting with the public domain at all.

There’s really no way to avoid the potential of a government spying on you. Even if you stayed at home, changed your locks, shut off your cable, your grid-generated electric, shut down your telephones, and never sent or received mail – a scenario that would very likely raise someone’s eyebrows somewhere and possibly create its own problems in terms of staying off the NSA radar – you’d still have to eat food, generate waste, and use water. And even if you grew it all on your own land, and cooked it yourself, and had a septic system and recycled your water and composted your trash, you’d still appear somewhere.

You’d pay taxes of some sort, even if just property taxes. If you walked outside to plant crops, Google Maps might find you and if they can, the NSA can. Satellites, drones – already in use in some jurisdictions to search for hidden marijuana crops – hell, just a park ranger driving past in his pick up. All of these are potential sources of surveillance.

Nevermind that you have friends and family, too, all of whom would have some interaction with you, all of whom are potential informants, even incidentally.

Scary stuff out there, huh?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sochi Agonists

I’m on the fence about boycotting the Sochi Olympics next year over the LGBT punishments handed out by Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

I can certainly see the point of making a boycott, withdrawing our athletes over treating anyone as subhuman – altho it’s interesting that many of the people rallying for a boycott oppose intervention in Syria over a far worse human rights abuse…one of the reasons I’m on the fence here, because I’m on the fence there, too.

Still, something about it all bothered me, and then I happened to catch this on the new ESPN show, “Olbermann,” the new home of an old friend of the blog, Keith Olbermann.
Watch what he says, and then tell me that I'm wrong to think it might be a good idea to emulate Jesse Owens' in the German Olympics of 1936 (altho Keith makes a great point about Marty Glickman in the same games.)

Monday, September 09, 2013

Thoughts on Syria

A couple of ruminations came up in my head over the weekend when I contemplated the latest from Syria:

1) Do you think that the corporatists are screaming bloody murder that their chosen party, Republicans, are not falling in line like the sheeple they are?

2) Is part of the reason Teabaggers aren’t falling in line to get a pound of flesh out of Assad because they’d finally have to acknowledge that global warming is a real threat to the world and by extension, us? Assad has been diverting water from the rural communities (and farms) to the cities to help ease the thirst of not only the permanent urban citizenry, but also the massive influx of refugees from those self-same rural communities ravaged by drought. As he’s moved closer to the city to divert water – notably, the suburbs – the civil unrest has gotten worse.

3) Would this conflict even be discussed if some bonehead President hadn’t gotten us engulfed (pun intended) in a war of choice that last more than a decade? After all, President Clinton managed to gather a coalition of NATO and other allies, including Russia, to get on board to seek first diplomatic means and then military solutions to the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia. One presumes that had we not become a truly evil nation in the past twenty years, we’d have the moral authority now to ask again.

4) I’m not sure Assad understands the Iraq war, however. Is he trying to rally his allies by playing the martyr card? Is it possible he’s telling the truth, as Hussein did?

5) Loren Thompson has a point: If Obama fails to garner the votes to authorize retaliation, he actually wins in the long run, domestically. And I think the US gains a measure of credibility back, too. For 213 of our 236+ years of existence, the United States has been at war with somebody. It’s really long past time to call us “warmongers”. The last time we were not at war? Dec. 6, 1941 (if you include the Cold War. If not, you need only look to Jimmy Carter’s administration.)